I’ve finished rewrites of two scenes for my romance and added a short scene before the shit hits the big, dark moment’s fan. Instead of thinking story line, I thought about emotional impact and digging deeper into my characters. There’s a reason to my madness. I’ve been reading more novels than usual lately, novels that made me think about why I love some books more than others. It’s easy to read a new author and say, “This didn’t work. Poor writing, cardboard characters, screwy POV, or crappy plot line.” I happened on a few in a row that were all telling, no showing, but I didn’t get far before I put them aside. What’s really been interesting to me, though, is to study a writer I thought was great to begin with and then study what made their third or fourth or ninth book even better. I’ve thought about it a lot, and for me, it’s when all of the glamour of voice, action, and verbal skills become background to strong characters who are stripped down to their naked entities. When things get really honest.
A writer might be able to pull that off in a standalone novel, but it would be hard. It takes a while of living inside a character’s head–I know, backward from the character living inside the writer’s head, but after a while, you DO live inside your character’s head–for all of his likes, dislikes, fears, dreams, etc. to show themselves. The longer you and your character hang out together, the more things you learn about him/her. I’m not sure you can manage it for the first book in a series. The first book is usually set-up–introducing a new world/setting, forcing the protagonist to deal with whatever big problem he has to solve before the end of the book, and throwing the poor miscreant into one disaster after another. We get to know the protagonist by his thoughts, even more through his actions. Les Edgerton wrote a great post on this, one worth remembering: http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/2012/03/character-actions.html?spref=fb. Still, we get to know our characters even better the longer the series progresses until somewhere along the line, the characters speaks to YOU, instead of you trying to bring the characters to life. When the characters tell you, “This is what I want to do. This is how I feel. What the hell were you thinking when you put me up against a barn full of mutants?”…then things get REAL.
I’ve hit a point in the favorite series I read where the writers’ characters have scraped away most of their emotional defenses, and they are who they are–warts and all. I love it. And since I’ve read it and thought about it, I want to strive for that more in my own writing. Not so easy to achieve, but boy, does it work. To give you a few more ideas on how to develop your characters fully, Sue Bahr did a great post on it recently: https://suebahr.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/character-development-in-five-oh-so-easy-steps/. I guess, for me, meeting characters–whether you’re reading about them or writing about them–is like meeting a new friend. In the beginning, you form an impression of them. Do you like them? Dislike them? But the longer you know them, the more you know THEM. And that’s when it gets good.
My point? I learn a lot by reading writers I admire who started out really good and then they hit awesome. When they reach that point, it’s time for me to ask, “How did they do that?”…And more importantly, “How can I do that?”
BTW, happy spring! Last week, we had a super moon cause a solar eclipse on the vernal solstice on March 20th. That has to inspire us, right? It inspired me. I put a new, short-SHORT, Mill Pond romance on my webpage.
My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy